Jesus Bread Matthew 14:13-21 8/6/2017
We’ve all had to do it, and chances are we all have particularly tedious examples of this.
We either physically wait in line at some place like the Department of Motor Vehicles, or the doctor’s office; the freeway entrance or the store. Or we ‘wait in line’ on the phone, why? “Because your call is important to us. Please stay on the line for the next available representative.” We wait in line on the phone to talk to the bank, the insurance company, or ‘wait for it’, the phone company.
We’ve all had our days of frustration around waiting.
And then there are those days when people are willingly to brave the intrusions of personal space to do something they like or be close to someone they admire – even if the people end up seated in the nosebleed section at the concert or sporting event, or end up in the standing room only area. Stadiums count on this every weekend.
Entertainers think that their fans are going to buy a ticket that costs more than a small car for the privilege of standing in lines and enduring the crowdedness. Yet, somehow, the wait and the loss of personal air space are worth the reward.
These would be the days of anticipation.
It’s not a new concept. Jesus caused crowds wherever he went … most of the time. Sometimes, people who wanted to get to Jesus couldn’t because it was so crazy around him.
It was so bad; Jesus once pushed out in a boat so more people could hear him. Jesus pushed out onto the water before he was pushed into the water.
Jesus broke away from the demanding crowds to spend time alone and in prayer because, well, because it was too crowded. And Jesus did this over and over.
What’s so intriguing about Jesus’ habit of drawing a crowd is the personal invitation that found its way into every crowded situation. It wasn’t always spoken, but it often felt like an invitation to intimacy. Come and rest. Come and follow. Come and drink. Come and dine. Come away with me. Leave that crowd and be with me.
Jesus’ understanding of crowds goes beyond the ordinary and the usual. Jesus has the unmatched ability to give personal attention to every face in the room or every soul on the hillside. Having a personal connection with the “headliner” of the event makes us feel as though we have our own audience with him, in this case Jesus.
Even though “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know” can make the darkest night sleep-able to a young soul. “Jesus Knows Me, This I Love” brings the needed comfort to an old soul like me. Being in a crowd, anticipating Jesus, is a good place for this to happen.
This would make it a day of realization.
Jesus’ “crowded” situations often don’t come at the most appropriate times. In today’s story Jesus has just heard that his cousin, John the Baptist, had lost his head – literally. John had been beheaded by King Herod.
Jesus is now seeking to withdraw from the crowd to a solitary place. Perhaps he’s not going away to do anything other than grieve the loss of a family member. What we know for sure was that Jesus was withdrawing from the crowd, not looking to gather one.
So what do we make of this?
Here’s a thought: This story reminds us that Jesus has a constant awareness of those to whom he is given; to those to whom he is with.
There’s a human element with Jesus. Jesus was always surrounded by people – his disciples, other followers or curious onlookers. He simply had people following him everywhere and at all times!
Jesus always had the disciples close by, and they would always ask their questions or, at other times, add their very human observations. Some of these comments were nothing more than predictable outbursts about the demands Jesus was making upon them:
- questions about seating arrangements in the future kingdom or
- questions about when Jesus was going to overthrow the Jewish and/or Roman government, and so forth.
This is refreshing; this human element; this constant awareness by Jesus of the people around him. This human element reserves us a place in the crowd. With Jesus,
- there’s always room for doubt and questions,
- there’s always room for false assumptions and faithless forgetfulness.
There is always room for people like you and me. Jesus knew that then and he knows that now.
Included in Jesus’ peripheral vision are those who have no faith; question their faith, and are looking for proof of life in other ways.
Included in Jesus’ peripheral vision are those who are looking for their place within the crowd.
Those who arrived late or last and cannot see or hear as clearly as those who formed the crowd’s nucleus – just wondering if they will ever fit in.
And as general as crowds are, there’s uniqueness to the all-seeing eyes of Jesus when he’s crowded in, when he’s surrounded by many spoken and unspoken expectations. Jesus is thorough in his glance our way; rather piercing at times. That’s what makes the relationship between Jesus and his people possible.
Jesus is fully aware of the complexities and the simplicities that our lives are made of. And in the grand scope of life, from its beginning to its ending, Jesus has been in control so there’s nothing in the crowd that’s new, and nothing in the crowd will cause his authority, and eventually his love to be in jeopardy.
We can say: Jesus knows his crowd.
Another idea: This story reminds us that Jesus is not overlooking our needs, both for the moment and for the future.
- There are people with brown eyes and people with green eyes.
- People who have curly hair and people who have straight hair or no hair at all for that matter.
- There are those who are a head and shoulder above and those who are a head and shoulder below.
- Quiet ones’ rowdy ones.
- Rich ones with helpers and those who could use the help.
They are all there and they are all welcome.
Matthew says Jesus saw the crowd and had compassion on them. They’re following for a reason, right? They are in need and it is impossible for Jesus not to notice. The crowd has been sitting through this hillside and lakeshore seminar all day. No coffee breaks. No cookies. No bottled water. It’s late in the afternoon and the real “hunger games” have started. Jesus sees that they have a noticeable need. We, too, when we gather in anticipation of Jesus, have enough need that it’s noticeable.
Here’s the kicker. Jesus’ response wasn’t just a word or a prayer. Not even just a touch. His response was very tangible. Jesus touched their lives in a way that would allow them to put their trust in him.
Jesus did that by first giving some organization to the messy mass – he had everyone sit down. He then multiplied what paltry provision they could find, and he fed their bodies.
Jesus’ interest was not then, and is not now, limited to heaven. His feeding of the 5,000 was not about future spiritual blessings, but rather current tangible needs.
- It was not about the hope of a brighter tomorrow.
- It was not about becoming stronger in faith.
Here’s the deal: Jesus cares deeply for what we are muddling through right now in our individual lives. When evening comes, if we’re still hungry, it’s not just a peaceful rest that we need for tomorrow. It’s fish and chips or a bowl of chowder, or even just a piece of bread.
Jesus knows this, and as he asked his disciples to distribute the loaves and fishes, so he invites us not only to sit at the table and eat, but also to wait on tables and serve.
What the people get that day is Jesus Bread. It’s a balanced meal of protein and carbs, i.e., bread and fish. We’re all in need of initial energy and sustainable energy, but it’s the carbs that allow us to be quickly energized. To be brought from our slumbering state to a place of participation and, at least for the moment, renewal.
Jesus says, “I will be with you to the ends of the earth.”
That’s a promise that takes us through life.
Jesus says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
That’s a promise that gets us going in life.
- One promise says, “This is what I am giving you … hope.”
- The other says, “This is what I have given you … help.”
One final thought: This story reminds us that in the crowd, Jesus has already provided at least a few seeds for what he intends to multiply in our daily lives.
No crowd is devoid of hope. No crowd is completely without its own regenerating qualities. There was no need for manna to rain down from the skies, or for a thousand quail to flutter through the air like it did for the Children of Israel during the Exodus out of Egypt. Five loaves and two small fish – not much for a crowd this size. Barely enough for a small dinner party.
It’s a daunting task to feed a large crowd. So Jesus asked them, “What do you have?” Most of us would say, “Not much,” and give up.
Yet, when it is all said and done, the crew collects 12 baskets to take home. Jesus knew this would happen. Based on their past Jesus knew his crowd. He was concerned about their present and concerned about their future.
Jesus was being himself, the one who was and is and is to come and then he made the big announcement, “I am the bread of life.” “I am what you crave.” “I am Jesus Bread.”
@Rev. Tim Wolbrecht, August, 2017
Here’s the audio recording of the sermon. TO LISTEN, in the SoundCloud window below, CLICK (or double-Click) the red button with the white arrow pointing to the right. If that does not work, then click on the “Sermon 8-6-17” name of the sermon.